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Death, peace and friendliness

  • calunio
  • 11/03/2011 01:18 PM
  • 2371 views
I love unusual charming games. At first glance, Wither is just a cute retro-looking game. I decided to play it first because it looked interesting, and second because it was featured. My reactions to the game were, in order:

"Nice graphics"
"Oh, charming dialogs"
"I like the setting"
"This is getting weird"
"What's happening?"
"I'm curious"
"The end... WTF?"

-browse forums-
"What a mess, I'm mad"
"I'm madder"

-plays game again
"Awesome"

Wither is a deep game, in the sense that there's a lot to be taken from it. The more you play it, the more you think about it, the more you talk about it, the more there seems to be about it, and that's a great thing.

The following review is carelessly spoilerific.

There are basically two great things about Wither.

1 - Presentation
I am definitely no fan of retro looks. With a few notable exceptions (like Necropolis), I usually see retro-looking games as a sign of laziness. Wither is slightly particular in that case because it uses a very unique visual style, with all the screaming-green screens. I won't say it looks bad, I won't say it looks great. But it most certainly works, for a very simple reason: it's (visually) repetitive, consistent and unique, and that's a combo that will no doubt produce a great sense of atmosphere. I'm actually surprised at myself about how incredible I think the atmosphere of this game is. I'm always amazed at how much simple-looking games like this (and our recent I'm Scared of Girls, and many others) achieve a degree of immersion and atmosphere that many games with much more elaborate graphics don't.

The atmosphere of Wither doesn't come from graphics alone, but also from sound and music. There are many silent bits in the game, but when it's there, the music in this game is really good. All visual and sound elements of the game seem to be carefully and tastefully chosen, not just a put-together of retro stuff. The effect is clearly noticeable.

Another thing that adds to the atmosphere is the dialog. NPCs have simple yet rich lines of talking, each of them seems to play a role in the world of the game. There's an interesting mixture of peace, death, and friendliness in every aspect of the presentation of Wither. At a careless glance, some things in the game may look a bit random and nonsensical, but they're not. There's a function in everything, sometimes a more important function that you'll know.

2 - Story
I've said in numerous places, like in my review of The Mirror Lied and my comments on Novella, that I hate games that are confusing, with a mystery behind the story that no one will know apart from the person who made the game. My initial reaction to this game, reinforced by some things I read on the gamepage after my first playthrough, were the same. I still thought it was a good game because of the presentation. But my overall grasp of the story was disappointing.

Reading some things gave me some clues. I had a badly-formulated theory of things, it is not THAT vague. I decided to give it a second playthrough.

On my second play, I ended up with a well-formulated theory. As I interacted with the characters of Wither's world, my theory started making more sense, and everything seemed more interesting. I don't know if my theory is right, and at this point, I'm not sure I want to know. There is definitely room for theorization, and I guess I'll just pretend there's no right answer to the game, because it leaves more room for personal involvement, less room for detective work. If I had a third playthrough, I would certainly perceive more about it. That realization made me start to love this game. It is a charming friendly game that eases you into a deep morbid story presented in an almost childish way.

In case you're curious (and you've played the game, because if not, you shouldn't be reading this), here's my theory right now:
Two brothers were in a car accident that killed a woman. One of them died in the accident, the other killed himself afterwards. The one that died didn't really die? (that part is still confusing to me), and he decided he has some things to do before departing... namely, putting 12 flowers on the grave of the girl who died. After you're done with that, you're ready to really die.

Not a particularly great plot in itself, but the cool thing is how the elements to put the pieces of the puzzle together are presented. There are many elements in the game that confirm my theory, which is interesting. Maybe it's wrong, I don't know, and I'm willing to discuss.

What else?
Wither is a walk-talk game. There are no battles or rock-pushing puzzles, just walk, talk, interact with objects. It's basically an exploration game, and anything more than that would have been unnecessary.

Regarding the comparison to Yumme Nikki and Space Funeral... I don't see it. Ok, there are obvious common elements, but the vibe I got from each game was completely different. Space Funeral was way more depressing, way more random, the visuals were more colorful and grotesque, and the overall "point" of the game was a critique to unimaginative game-making. Yume Nikki is a depressing gloomy exploration of open empty maps with no dialogs, permeated by a huge feeling of loneliness. That's not how I see Wither. I repeat, Wither is very unique in its style and overall goal.

This is a 30-minute game, and a replay should be about 10 minute long. So, just go ahead and play it... or play it again, if you already have. Is it worth it?

Posts

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Wow, I have very similar views of the game, and a similar theory on "the accident" too.
I would love to discuss more about our theories here but instead I think I will wait until I post my review (almost done) and maybe we will have an indirect conversation that way, lol.
My theory was a little different. The overall point is the same though. I liked your review. You had a lot of the same opinions about it as I did I think. It really is a great game despite the short length and the lack of activity.
The theory is kinda wrong though. Take note of exactly what the guy standing outside the graveyard says. http://rpgmaker.net/media/content/games/3434/screenshots/screen7.PNG
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